Review Summary: Bell Witch return from their immaculate “Four Phantoms” with an album whose stuffy portentousness belies some of the band’s most stunning moments.
Listening to Bell Witch is typically a surprisingly effortless endeavor. As unwieldy as the 20-minute aural behemoths found on Four Phantoms
are, they go down particularly smooth. Bell Witch are masters of making the un-listenable very listenable; crafting songs that test listeners patience while singing of bleakness and death to the point where it actually seeps into one's psyche. Mirror Reaper
, unfortunately, does not hit the same highs that Bell Witch achieved with their breakout masterpiece. While a remarkable achievement in its own right, the band's attempt at an 80-minute sustained work suffers from the pitfalls one might expect from such ambitions.
Doom is a tricky genre to navigate because, unlike most forms of metal, its value is less contingent on technical ability or structured songwriting. Rather, its worth relies more on the emotive aspects of metal which seek to provoke feelings like despair, dread, and most importantly, awe. Bell Witch do this and they do it amazingly well. Mirror Reaper
truly is full of awe inspiring moments that fill one with wonder and terror all the same. Yet for long stretches of this singular, monstrous track, Bell Witch disappear from the listener's ear far too often. Admittedly, it's a difficult task to maintain momentum strong enough to hold attention for extended bouts of drone and hollow reverb. Typically, during their 20-minute tracks, the band avoids this issue with a surprising dynamism that belies a strict adherence to aesthetic and theme. Mirror Reaper
, on the other hand, wants so badly to feel
like a single cohesive track, that it forgets to add any sort of unexpectedness or intrigue to make it worth while.
On that note, what Bell Witch have accomplished with Mirror Reaper
as a single track must be commended, if only for what it achieves. The album, moreso than any other of its ilk, really does sound like one sustained track. Instead of melding an album's worth of material together and calling it "a big song," Bell Witch have composed an effortless and seamless work with absolutely no indication that any one moment was meant for anything else.
That being said, at times it feels like one of their 20 minute songs stretched out to be four times as long. The interludes meant as a brief respite are now extend upwards to five minutes. The beginning for example, drones on and on until the listener is begging for something to happen
. Naysayers will argue that it's the point, and that doom is intended from long-form expression, but at times it feels like the band misses the point entirely for the sake of their lofty goals.
is a challenging album to listen to on multiple fronts. On the one hand, it is oppressive and deep music, wrought with heavy themes and even heavier aesthetics. On the other hand, it challenges the listener's patience with overcooked ideas that threaten to spoil what is otherwise an immaculately produced record. Were Mirror Reaper
trimmed in the right places, it would compliment some of the outstanding moments that are present throughout. Instead, said moments are flashes of brilliance lost in a sea of noise.